16 September 2012

Free For All Invitations - The Stealthy Straw Man

Oh isn't it wonderful! Harper Voyager are accepting full manuscript unagented submissions for the first two weeks in October. They made the announcement in a press release on the 12th September. How amazing! That'll show the traditional publishing industry is ready to take risks and run the gauntlet! Yes, it will!


It won't.

Let me tell you what would be a risk. Innovation. I've seen this particular dog and pony show at least twice before and it's just a bunch of disingenuous rubbish or blatant incompetence on the part of the organising publishing house. Why? Simple. If you announce this with two weeks to spare before the actual event then you will not be receiving new material you will be receiving material people are already sitting on. Either material that is currently in need of a good polish (and four weeks to polish with the aid of my manuscript tool would be pushing it, without polishing properly it is a nearly impossible task) or material which the author considers to be 'good to go' already.

The massive problem with the latter category is that this material isn't already with an agent for one of three reasons, 1. has already been rejected by dozens of agents, 2. was just about to go to an agent but author saw press release and decided to skip the middle man 3. just isn't. Only manuscripts in category 2 or 3 stand a chance of actually being decent and then only the same chance as that submitted to an agent i.e. apparently not much.

So Harper Voyager are proposing to allow the filth gates to groan open for two weeks and then to send some lowly peons to scrub through the fetid literary detritus and report back if they find the Hope Diamond in amongst the slurry. The peons, of course, probably won't. Then Harper Voyager can say: "See, agents are the only way". Or, if the Hope Diamond appears they can say: "Great, a sucker to bilk on a publishing deal because they're not represented by an agent".

I have also seen a scheme run by another publishing house in which they turned the preparation of 30k of opening into a six month event and delivered a full, tight requirements list for the type of material they would consider. Now, that's a plan.

This, this is just a meaningless and mean-spirited publicity stunt engineered by people who are either cynical or ignorant and are probably both. To attempt to save everybody a little bit of time and trouble: if you have just finished and you have an agent in mind, submit to the agent, if you have been rejected a number of times already there is probably a reason why. This is just a cruel chimera and you should direct your energies elsewhere.

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